The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday arraigned the Taraba State Accountant-General, Joel Joseph Lenbang, before Justice Donatus Nwabueze Okorowo of the Federal High Court Jalingo for defrauding the state government to the tune of N1.56 billion.
He was docked on an eight-count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence, offences contrary to and punishable under the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006.
When the charges were read to him, the accused person pleaded not guilty.
The malfeasance came to light following a petition received from a concerned Taraba State indigene, sometime in February 2014, alleging massive looting of Taraba State funds. The petition triggered investigation of the lifestyle of some of the officers mentioned in the petition and who were believed to be living above their means.
The investigation uncovered systematic withdrawal of state funds through a scheme allegedly mastermind by Joel Lengbang. Withdrawals were allegedly made under the guise that such monies were used for sundry payments on behalf of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as well as payment of Bank Commissions on Turn over (COT) and Value Added Tax (VAT) which became a monthly affair.
A total of N1,567,226,557.81 was discovered to have been looted from the state treasury between January 2012 and December 2013.
In view of the plea of the accused, prosecuting counsel, Al Qasim Ja’afar applied for a date to commence trial.
Counsel to accused, Abayomi Akamode, however, informed the court that he had filed a motion for bail and urged the court hear it.
But Al Qasim told the court that he was just served the motion on notice in court and would need time to peruse and respond appropriately.
Justice Okorowo adjourned the case till July 11, 2014 for hearing of the bail application and remanded the accused in prison custody.